Dr. Herb Belcourt is a strong believer in the value of education – it is one of his life’s passions. He’s dedicated years to helping aboriginal youth get ahead in life and achieve their post-secondary dreams.
For his ongoing commitment to aboriginal student success, Belcourt has been presented with the 2014 Sen. Thelma Chalifoux Award. The presentation was made during NAIT’s Aboriginal Culture Day, which showcases First Nations, Métis and Inuit teachings and culture.
“It’s so important to encourage young people to get an education,” said Belcourt. “I always felt strongly about that. Education was key, and I knew it.”
In 1970, Belcourt, with his cousin, Orval Belcourt, and friend, Georges Brosseau, co-founded Canative Housing Corp. to provide affordable housing for Métis families moving into Edmonton and Calgary. The success of this housing initiative was enhanced by its Urban Skills program which provided daycare services and taught tenants parenting, homemaking, health and budgeting skills. The corporation donated $25,000 to NAIT’s Scholarships and Bursaries program.
The Canative Housing Corporation liquidated its housing portfolio in 2001, donating $13 million to the Edmonton Community Foundation to establish a permanent endowment fund to help Métis Albertans achieve self-sufficiency through post-secondary education and skills development.
“It’s beyond our belief that things have worked out so well,” said Belcourt. “I think we’re on the right track.”
Chalifoux said Belcourt is very deserving of this award. “The Belcourt name has been associated with business in this area for generations. It is a strong Métis name,” Chalifoux said. “It’s a great honour on my part to have this award presented to Herb for his achievements.”
NAIT president and CEO Dr. Glenn Feltham adds: “Dr. Belcourt’s generosity and steadfast commitment to the aboriginal community, his entrepreneurial spirit and natural mentoring skills are remarkable. We are honoured to celebrate his service and his many accomplishments.”
Belcourt was a recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Housing in 2005 and was recognized with the Order of Canada in 2010. He received an honourary doctorate of laws degree from the University of Alberta in 2001. Belcourt served on the board for Alberta Native Counselling Services, was a member of the Aboriginal Advisory Committee for Child, Family & Community Research in Alberta, and until 2013 was an Aboriginal Advisor to the Commanding Officer at “K” Division for the RCMP.
Until recently, he was interim Chair of the Rupertsland Institute, established in 2010 through a partnership between the Government of Canada and the Métis Nation of Alberta to address the critical need for education, training and research.
Introduced in 2000, the Senator Thelma Chalifoux Award is presented annually by NAIT to individuals or organizations outside of the institute that have consistently demonstrated a commitment to aboriginal student success. Through all her endeavors, Chalifoux has consistently focused on making life better for others. She was the first Métis woman in the Senate, appointed by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien on Nov. 26, 1997, to represent Alberta. She served until Feb. 9, 2004.
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is a leading Canadian polytechnic, delivering education in science, technology and the environment; business; health and trades. With more than 60,000 credit and non-credit students and a 98 per cent employer satisfaction rate, NAIT grads are essential to Alberta’s prosperity. Known for hands-on, technology-based learning, NAIT engages with business and industry in applied research and innovation and provides corporate training around the world. Recognized as one of Alberta’s top employers, NAIT provides outstanding returns on investment for its graduates, partners, the provincial government and the people of Alberta.